My name is Ben Small and I am a Marine Engineer.
A couple of years ago, at 18, I fell headlong into a career at sea. This unplanned road was possibly provoked by some loose desire to see the world and to leave home in dramatic fashion; neither reason touching upon a known or unknown love of the sea and I without clue as to what such work/life entailed. Without so much as an inkling I first attended marine college, and then, supposedly equipped with a suitcase of preparedness and another with clothes I joined my first ship in Rotterdam.
I had passed the college exams with flying colours - carefully stowing away the oft-taught dangers of lead-acid batteries, how to launch a variety of orange-coloured lifeboats and with 'insider knowledge' of shipping economics, taught by a self-promoting author. After two years with my head in the books I honestly naively assumed that I was ready for the high seas. But ‘life at sea’ cannot be taught. It is not a theoretical subject that is founded by blackboard-scribbled mathematical symbols nor embedded by lengthy multiple-choice tests. I now know that sailing is 90% about the characters on board and the openly tolerated and inane cultures and behaviours that are freely allowed to operate and spawn, and only 10% about the actual work. Even then, one doesn’t have to be a good marine engineer or navigator, just mad or maddening; either will suffice. Plenty of nutters at sea as I was soon to learn.
I will be the first to admit that during my first trip I was annoyingly naive and this diary sets it all out; my journey, actual and personal, as I sailed the world for the very first time. Yes, I had an adventure. Perhaps I could better describe it as an interminably long trip filled with maddening inconsistency and needling (think 'jackhammer') traumas, but believe it or not I would do it all again. If only I could turn back the clock, to be wiser and kitted for all that I encountered. Then again, it might have been rough, it might have been an embarrassing series of disasters and cultural shocks but it was my trip and mine alone. And so I will now dignify that trip (with trepidation as I embark on my second) and my then fellow seafarers with fondness – just don’t tell them that.
The following entries are all real and factual. I wrote them with near-daily consistency, abused or drunk or both, and as we sailed around the world. This diary contains my ultra-fast journey towards tepid acceptance and the trials and tribulations that I underwent until pay-off day. This diary covers my first trip to sea, from the 10th October 2015 to the 10th of January 2016, when I finally left that tub of madness for a well-earned break. This is the truth and if you’re thinking of going to sea yourself then you need to read my diary first: nobody else will tell you until it’s all too late. I will upload my entries slowly but surely; as and when I can decipher the original tear and beer-stained squiggles.
Check back here soon !!